I did not vote for George W. Bush, and despite the fact that I have taken issue with the majority of his decisions while in office, I would like to make a suggestion, which if followed, would (in my humble opinion), provide George Bush with the most favorable legacy possible out of his Administration – bring our troops home.
This country went to war in Iraq, riding a wave of patriotism, and I would like to believe altruism. A large number of people in this country believed (why I don’t know) that Saddam Hussein had a burgeoning weapons-of-mass-destruction program. Though it seems to have been swept under the rug now, there were also overt suggestions that Iraq was involved in the September 11 attacks. And finally, Saddam Hussein was generally perceived to be a really bad guy; the leader of one of the Axis of Evil nations.
Our military has been in country now for just over four years, Saddam Hussein’s WMD stock pile has never materialized, and George Bush has advised the American Public that a future president, will preside over our troops’ homecoming.
Sixty years ago, the United States Military needed less than four years to fight two countries, overseas, into complete submission. Today’s military is better trained and equipped than it was in the 1940’s, with no equal in the world.
So why is victory in Iraq so elusive?
The answer is simple. In World War II, we had a tangible goal by which victory could be readily measured. In Iraq, we are fighting against an ideology.
By the World War II standard, we won the war in Iraq in a matter of weeks, when Saddam Hussein’s regime crumbled. The lesson we failed to learn though from the post World War II era is that we can overthrow all of the governments we want. We can invade any country and pound its citizens into submission, but we cannot stop ideas.
Once we began to vilify and fight wars over ideology, our war record started to falter. Despite our victory in Europe, Nazism is alive and well, and can even be found in our own country. Had the U.S. continued fighting World War II until Nazism was dead, we would probably still be fighting.
This is the missed lesson from the Cold War. First France, then the United States fought in Vietnam for decades, yet today, Vietnam is Communist. We have levied an embargo against and isolated Cuba for more than forty years, and yet it too is Communist. Add China to the list of current Communist regimes and you have a fairly large portion of the globe living under a political system that shaped this country’s foreign policy for a generation. The United States undoubtedly won the Cold War, yet more than one fifth of the world lives under Communist regimes, and we are witnessing a revival of leftist politics in our own hemisphere.
I have never been quite sure why we are in Iraq, but if we assume that the “enemy” is radical Islam, at least to the extent that its adherents condone, advocate and/or engage in the use of terror (whatever that means) to further its goal, then we cannot win. Just like we failed to destroy Nazism and Communism, while defeating the Third Reich and the Soviet Union, we have no hope of destroying radical Islam, or as President Bush tried for awhile to call it, “Islamo-Fascism.”
One major difference between radical Islam and Nazism or Communism, and one that will make it even more difficult to destroy, is that radical Islam is at least in some part, a reaction to Western (American) involvement in the Middle East. Imagine that, we are fighting an unwinable war against an ideology that is fomented by our war against it.
The term “unwinable” needs to be one that we as Americans need to start getting used to in the “war on terror.” General Douglas Macarthur is rumored to have said that when he was finished, the Japanese language would be spoken only in Hell. How will General Petraeus know when he has finished? Will the Patriot Act be repealed? Will the CIA’s secret prisons in Eastern Europe or the detention center in Guantanamo Bay be closed? Will “Freedom Fries” be “French Fries” again? Will we be able to take bottled water and cuticle scissors on airplanes again?
The fact is we can no more eliminate radical Islam or terrorism, than we could Communism or Nazism.
President Bush’s legacy will be his handling of the war in Iraq. To date, official numbers of American service persons killed and wounded exceed 3,200 and 24,000, respectively, with the large majority of those occurring after the President landed on an Aircraft Carrier and declared “Mission Accomplished,” on television.
Our invasion of Iraq prompted a civil war that will not soon end, and that will surely explode when U.S. troops finally redeploy. The war in Iraq is poised to develop into a regional conflict whether we leave today, next week or next year, and no matter which scenario plays out, there will still be some group, somewhere, whether in the name of radical Islam, or whatever new cause then exists, that is inclined to and will hijack airplanes, build bombs and kill for that cause, what ever it is.
Our troops have obeyed their orders. They have performed brilliantly and heroically, but no matter how professional, brave, well trained or motivated, they are, our troops cannot rid the world of any ideology, no matter how repulsive. George Bush’s greatest legacy can be to order our troops back home and let them stop fighting a war no army can win – a war on thoughts.